Prop. 21 Passage Sparks Lively Protest 3/10/00

Drug War Chronicle, recent top items


recent blog posts "In the Trenches" activist feed


More than 150 people were arrested at a non-violent protest in San Francisco on Wednesday (3/8), the day after California voters resoundingly approved Proposition 21, the controversial initiative that gives prosecutors much greater freedom to try people as young as 14 as adults.

"People better wake up and see what's going on," one young protester told a KRON-TV news reporter. "I can't vote, but they can try me as an adult," she added.

Most of the 500 demonstrators, who gathered in the lobby of a Hilton hotel, were in their late teens to early twenties. The location was chosen because of W. Barron Hilton's $10,000 donation to the pro-Prop. 21 campaign. "The only good thing that's come out of this is that it has energized young people all across the state," said another demonstrator.

Prop. 21 received was approved by 62 percent in Tuesday's election. In addition to giving district attorneys much greater latitude to try juveniles as adults, the new law creates new crimes for gang-related activity, lowers the threshold for some felonies, opens juvenile court records to possible scrutiny by employers, and contains other provisions that led opponents to dub it the "juvenile injustice initiative."

The projected costs to enforce the new law may well prove onerous to the state and local governments. The report from the state Legislative Analyst found that Prop. 21 will likely incur a one-time cost of $750 million and ongoing costs of $300 million at the state level. The same report predicts that the initiative will cost local governments between $200-300 million, with ongoing costs as high as $100 million dollars each year. The city of Los Angeles, already facing the threat of bankruptcy from the projected costs accruing in the Rampart-LAPD corruption scandal, will share a significant proportion of the financial burden to implement and enforce the new law.

"This is a sad day for California," Kim Miyoshi, spokesperson for the statewide Committee to Defeat Proposition 21, told the San Jose Mercury News. "Voters have chosen to allocate billions of dollars to lock up youth and not one penny for prevention."

Indeed, although the California District Attorney's Association claims that Prop. 21 will "teach at-risk, impressionable youth who can truly be rehabilitated that their actions have consequences," opponents say research shows that the law itself is likely to have unintended consequences. Citing a 1996 study from the RAND Corporation, a Schools Not Jails fact sheet against Prop. 21 notes that "Prevention programs are estimated to be at least twice as effective and significantly cheaper than laws designed to increase incarceration."

But other studies show that incarceration is not simply less effective than prevention; jailing juvenile offenders often results in even greater harm to both young people and society. Research from the Washington, DC-based Justice Policy Institute, which opposed Prop. 21, shows that juveniles incarcerated with adults are at increased risk of being raped and of committing suicide, and are more likely to commit more, and more violent, crimes upon release.

And Prop. 21 is expected to send thousands of California's youngest, newly minted felons to its adult prisons. While current state laws prohibit juveniles from being housed with adults -- a large portion of that one-time $750 million dollar price tag for the state will be spent on building new housing for juveniles at existing adult prisons -- many of the Justice Policy Institute's findings still apply. As the state Legislative Analyst noted in its report, "A number of research studies indicate that juveniles who receive an adult court sanction tend to commit more crimes and return to prison more often than juveniles who are sent to juvenile facilities. Thus, [Prop. 21] may result in unknown future costs to the state and local criminal justice systems."

Web sites with information that contributed to this story include:

Schools Not Jails

Justice Policy Institute

California Secretary of State elections & voter information

California District Attorney's Association

Robin Templeton writes an excellent story on the youth movement spawned by opposition to Prop. 21 in this week's edition of Alternet news, online at

-- END --
Link to Drug War Facts
Please make a generous donation to support Drug War Chronicle in 2007!          

PERMISSION to reprint or redistribute any or all of the contents of Drug War Chronicle (formerly The Week Online with DRCNet is hereby granted. We ask that any use of these materials include proper credit and, where appropriate, a link to one or more of our web sites. If your publication customarily pays for publication, DRCNet requests checks payable to the organization. If your publication does not pay for materials, you are free to use the materials gratis. In all cases, we request notification for our records, including physical copies where material has appeared in print. Contact: the Drug Reform Coordination Network, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 293-8340 (voice), (202) 293-8344 (fax), e-mail [email protected]. Thank you.

Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of the DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

Issue #128, 3/10/00 DRCNet and TV's "Judge Judy" in War of Words Over Needle Exchange Remarks Following Launch of Web Site | Prop. 21 Passage Sparks Lively Protest | Forfeiture Vote Postponed Again | New Hampshire, Vermont to Close the Gap with Methadone Legislation | Two Hawaii Medical Marijuana Bills Pass, Letters to Legislators Still Needed | STUDIES: Marijuana Eases Multiple Sclerosis, Might Help Brain Cancer, Could Pose Heart Risk | Feinstein-Campbell | Link of the Week | Events | Editorial: California's Shame
Mail this article to a friend
Send us feedback on this article
This issue -- main page
This issue -- single-file printer version
Drug War Chronicle -- main page
Chronicle archives
Subscribe now!
Out from the Shadows HEA Drug Provision Drug War Chronicle Perry Fund DRCNet en EspaŮol Speakeasy Blogs About Us Home
Why Legalization? NJ Racial Profiling Archive Subscribe Donate DRCNet em PortuguÍs Latest News Drug Library Search
special friends links: SSDP - Flex Your Rights - IAL - Drug War Facts the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet)
1623 Connecticut Ave., NW, 3rd Floor, Washington DC 20009 Phone (202) 293-8340 Fax (202) 293-8344 [email protected]